Short tweet from the Strib feed:
Ryan Cos. in talks with Star Tribune over land development |
I thought: there she goes. That’s it. The building is going down. The great grey cliff at the edge of downtown will finally go, and I’ll probably be around to see it, barring, you know, meteors or a car jumping the curb or any other zesty zingers life has in store.
Or it’ll stay. I can’t see that happening, not if they want to remake everything to look like a magnificent new urban development that revitalizes a somnambulant expanse of Nothingtown. Its loss will be a tragedy; it will be wrong. There’s not another structure of its vintage and style downtown. It could be incorporated into a new development, as they did with the WPA ice rink in Fargo:
I hear you ask: but where will you go? What will you do? Frankly, my dear, I don’t - oh wait, no, I do give a damn. Let’s say we relocate to Class A space. There’s not a lot of it downtown, because no one’s built anything in years. Class B would be possible; I’m sure an owner would be happy to spiff it up and let us rename the building, perhaps thinking it would make the rest of the place an “incubator” for information / media startups that wanted to piggyback on the bristling energy that pours forth from a large media operation. (Cough.)
It’s an opportunity. I can’t think of another large paper that’s moved. Mostly they stay or vanish. Seems as if they all built HQs in the 30s, too - they have the same spare, severe Style. Truth! Tireless Pursuit of Truth! No time for ornamentation.
The original buildling, which was a refit of the old building, I believe:
You can see how they expanded the idea for the 1947 rehab / expansion:
That's a newspaper building. Letters of Stone.
But stone never lasts, does it? The wind has the last laugh. Although you like to think that after all those years of intimate erosion, it's an affectionate chuckle.
Saw this ad in an old mag, and had to smile. Lucius Beebe. Lucius Beebe. Is there a better name for an epicurean chronicler of cafe society. I wonder if he really used it, or if he just cashed the check, took the free cases of the stuff, gave it to the houseboy and asked him to see if there was any possible way it could be used in a cocktail. I mean, Aqua Velva was a mouthwash at first.
Now there was a journalist. If I may quote extensively from Richard Kluger's wonderful book on the New York Herald Tribune - now out of print; hope the estate doesn't matter - here was Beebe, who joined the paper in 1929.
At Bleeck’s saloon a few nights after Walker had hired him, Ogden Reid
caught his first glimpse of the Tribune’s newest employee. He was wearing his usual nocturnal gear when out on the town: white tie and tails, top hat, red- velvet-lined opera cloak, heavy gold chain adorning his midsection, silver-tipped black stick; he was smoking a cigar less than a foot long but not by much.
Beebe was indeed partial to life’s velvet comforts. “All I want,” he once said, “is the best of everything-and there’s very little of that.” His grand manner and Wildean ways were attributable, some said, not to an aristocratic upbringing but to a bourgeois one he hoped to extirpate. His father had been in the leather business and later ran the local gas company in Brockton, Massachusetts, serving, too, as a bank director. Beebe would refer to him as a banker. Whatever the neurotic nature of his family bond, his parents were known to send him three hundred dollars a month, nearly three times the salary paid to young reporters on the paper, and he comported himself accordingly. The extravagance of his wardrobe was mirrored in the tangled Wildwood of his prose: he avoided the vulgar tongue whenever he could get away with it.
Such a style was not much suited to reporting on small fires-which he did on at least one occasion while wearing a morning coat-or covering routine speeches at dinners where he himself was likely to be an object of as much curiosity as the guest of honor. Once, when he had been assigned to cover a dinner address by the president of the New York Central Railroad to his assembled engineers, Beebe instead showed up at a gathering of the Caledonian Society being held in the same hotel. Why the railroad chief should unaccountably have decided to address his men on aspects of Scottish culture, the reporter was uncertain, but he wrote it all up dutifully and was puzzled by the ensuing uproar; one damned dinner, after all, was very like the next.
Subject and style meshed perfectly. He would write of “calamitous potations,” “vaguely anonymous spaniels,” and “the purlieus of magniticence”; food and drink, for him, were always “comestibles.” He became, over the next two decades, the historian of the upper stratum of New York’s café society and its showy habits. If you wanted to know anything about vintage champagnes or the best buy in Alfred Dunhill’s humidor or how to outsnob your maitre d’ or why the insignia of the Plaza Hotel consisted of spine-to-spine P’s in a wreath, Lucius Beebe was your man. He stalked the town by night on his long legs -
all night - often showing up in the office at dawn, still in white tie, to bang out his copy. He would catch a few hours’ sleep, then reappear in late moming, less formally outtitted, for some office chitchat and attending to callers; by midday, he would tum to anyone handy and say, “Hey, keed, let’s you and me go downstairs for a gag,” short for a “rye gag,” a calamitous potation of his own devising. A besotting lunch was followed by a nap and a Turkish bath and then careful wardrobing for his round of public appearances that evening. He was said to be the only staif regular whose work allowed him to get drunk twice each day. When Stanley Walker felt called upon once to deny that his staffof superior young men were in fact a bunch of playboys, he added, “Excepting, always,
There was the time Beebe took someone else's hat by mistake, went out on the town, threw up in the hat in a cab, and went back to the office to confess to the editor that he'd taken his chapeau.
Hill stalked off and the remorseful Beebe hung his rear over the edge of a
tall wastebasket of the sort favored in newspaper offices and carried on a
disjointed conversation with the late crew. His seat slipped, and he sank slowly into the basket, jackknife fashion, receding like a ship over the horizon. He was extricated with great diiliculty. A few days later, Hill reported to the city desk that Beebe had indeed bought him a new hat. “Better than I had.”
Kluger's final note:
His admirable character went beyond haberdashery. Beebe was an avowed enemy of the American Newspaper Guild, which tried to organize the city room for nearly ten years before succeeding. He hated all unions with Bourbon contempt, arguing that they were “for the benelit of the worthless, incompetent and discontented to harass their betters and to prevent ambitious, hard-working people from getting ahead.” But when the day came to vote on turning the Tribune into a Guild shop, the poorly paid copyboy in Beebe’s department - a staunch advocate of the union - was home ill, and gentlemen did not take advantage of others’ misfortune; Beebe abstained - for one of the few times in his career.
His Wikipedia entry notes that he later moved to Nevada with his gentleman friend, pursued his interest in railroad history, and ended up owning two restored train cars.
He also made the cover of some dinky little magazine they put out in those days.
Beebe died in February 1966.
Later that year a strike brought down the Herald Tribune, and it closed for good.